Automobiles have come a long way since the time when you could have yours in any color, as long as it was black. Paint color has long been a way to customize a car, but paint color alone is so very 20th century.
Car buyers want more choices in personalized transportation, and Japanese automaker Daihatsu — which operates as a member of the Toyota Group — is launching a project to give it to them. The company’s Copen roadster will offer from-the-factory customization at a level previously unavailable in a mass market car, all courtesy of 3D printing.
For the Daihatsu Copen, designers have developed a library of 15 different textured components they call “skins.” These skins fit within the body shell on the nose and rear end of the car, and allow buyers to customize their auto in ways that previously required aftermarket parts.
In normal auto manufacturing, Daihatsu would create molds, jigs, and fixtures for the parts so these could be molded, cast, stamped, or machined (depending on material) by the hundreds and stored near the assembly line.
The parts would then be assembled onto each car in quantities determined by marketing research and sent to dealers in allotments. If a customer wanted a combination not available on the local dealer’s lot, the customer could go to a different dealer, or the local dealer would find the proper combination at another dealer’s location, and then arrange a swap to get the right car to the customer.
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